Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Cooking Mama: Cook Off

Cooking Mama: Cook Off is like Warioware meets The Food Channel. Sound fun? Sound terrifying? It's a little of both. The game's premise is simple: cook things. Cooking Mama, an adorable, shiny-eyed chef who's ready to pass on her trade, walks players through recipes step by step. Each stage in the preparation process is a food-related mini-game. Chopping, stirring, breaking eggs: everything gets done with the Wii-mote, preferably super-fast. (So many splattered eggs!) At the end of each mini-game, Mama rates your performance from "Try harder" to "Wonderful. Better than Mama!" For more competitive cooking, go up against a friend in two-player mode, or try a computer chef.

Every time players complete a recipe, a new one opens up. There are some, um, international dishes to choose from, like pasta in squid's ink, or borsht. But often, even the familiar food doesn't make much sense. Since when is there ham in a quesadilla? Or ground beef in a pierogi? It's a vegetarian's nightmare. At least the cream puffs still make sense.

Beyond the game: From its bright colors to its abundant seafood, Cooking Mama is definitely a Japanese game. That means it comes complete with Mama's totally fun, totally Engrish accent.

Worth playing for: The delicious absurdity. One of the American recipes is a hot dog. Easy enough, right? But since just preparing a hot dog would be too simple, Cooking Mama thought up some extra steps—like catching the dog as it falls out of the sky, or stuffing a bun full of mysterious gray fuzz. Tasty!


Frustration sets in when: Because it involves so many mini-games, Cooking Mama gives short, often confusing directions for each task. Why is my custard burning? The world may never know.

Final judgment: It's wildly entertaining for about 90 minutes. After that, even real cooking starts to make more sense.

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